Most people don't include "nice" in their descriptions of me, and the reason for this is simple: People who are superficial usually call me harsh, cold, or mean. They simply don't think I am "deserving" of such a title; people who are deep usually call me honest, passionate, and sweet. They know more about me than to settle for "nice" as a term to describe my character.
Nice is superficial. Nice is surface-level. Nice is what you call a person when you don't really know them that well. I don't like nice.
It's what the neighbors say about the quiet guy living next door who ended up in prison as a mass murderer. When the police come a'knockin to inquire into the nature of the man who killed twenty people while living in Quiet Town Suburbia, the little old lady next door says, "He was so nice but..." he was actually a loner and no one ever really saw him much. He never came out during the day or participated in normal neighborly activities. He was kind of strange. He didn't talk much.
One of my favorite books is "Who's Pulling Your Strings" by Harriet B. Braiker. In it, she highlights some of the issues of "the price of nice." I thought I'd share with you, Dear Reader, in my shameless plug for the book that helped me out of two of my worst manipulative relationships. Highlighting and bolding for emphasis, mine.
...The more you identify with being nice and pleasing others to guarantee and ensure their approval and acceptance of you, the more insecure you will become. The more you identify with being nice instead of being real, the more you will find yourself plagued by nagging doubts and insecurities and lingering fears.
If your approval addiction is deeply entrenched...your willingness to do nearly anything to avoid disapproval, rejection, and worst of all, abandonment [will be obvious to outside-observers].
**Note from me: As I am re-reading this, I find that I'm imagining a person like NMIL reading this book. Since all Narcs look for ways to turn your accusations of abuse back around on you, this would seem the perfect book for them to find all the right words to use. Couldn't you see it? "Why are you doing this to me, DS/DD? I was always so NICE to you because I have such a deeply entrenched need for approval. I was always so willing to avoid YOUR disapproval and rejection that I was nice to you all of the time in spite of everything you did to me. I am nice, is that my crime? Is that why you hate me so much? Because I am an approval addict and you are taking advantage of my niceness?"
In reality, Narcs use "nice" as a shield, a ruse, an elaborate part of their facade. They hide behind niceness so as not to show their true selves: which are depleted, dark, and cruel and TERRIFIED of abandonment. Braiker makes it very clear, throughout this book, that she is NOT addressing manipulators. Instead, she is speaking to the people who have been manipulated and wish to break free. She goes on to address the real issue, which is that Non-narcs who are easily manipulated use nice to hide their insecurities, thereby allowing manipulators to strike:
Soft-target thought: I should always do what others want, need, or expect from me.
Corrected hard-target thought: If and when I want, I can choose to fulfill the wants, needs, or expectations of others who are important to me.
Soft-target thought: I should always try to please other people and make them happy.
Corrected hard-target thought: I know that it is impossible to please other people all he time or for me to make everyone happy. Setting myself up by trying to do the impossible will only make me feel inadequate and unhappy."
Soft-target thought: Other people should appreciate and love me because of all the nice things I do for them.
Corrected hard-target thought: I hope that other people love me for the person I am rather than for what I do for them. When I choose to do nice things for others, I hope they appreciate my efforts.
Soft-target thought: Other people should always like and approve of me because of how hard I work to please them.
Corrected hard-target thought: I know it is not reasonable or even possible for everyone to always like and approve of me. I would like the people whom I like and respect to reciprocate my own feelings, but the most important approval I need is my own.
Ironically enough, I believe, Narcs do uphold some of these "soft-target beliefs." They behave in a seemingly "nice" manner because they are so desperate for the love and approval of those around them. Narcs have a deep-seeded desire for approval. The problem is that their insecurities don't translate into any sort of genuine caring, love, or understanding of others. Non-narcs who are addicted to approval don't, technically, have the best interests of others at heart either, though they might like to think they do. Both parties use "nice" as a way to get the love and approval they are seeking. The difference is, of course, that Ns behave that way at the EXPENSE of everyone else.
If you have to compromise your own values, needs, or identity as a special or unique individual, the price of nice is just too high. Being nice will not always protect you from unkind treatment of others. Thinking that it will is likely to make you feel guilty and responsible if others treat you badly. You are under no obligation to reward people who treat you badly or unkindly or who manipulate or exploit you by acting nice and pretending that everything is fine. It is okay not to be nice some of the time.
Soft-target thought: I price myself on being a nice person.
Corrected hard-target thought: I pride myself on being a sincere, honest, genuine, principled, hard-working and independent [or any other aspect of your self-concept other than the one-dimensional wishy-washy nice] person.
Soft-target thought: Being nice sometimes prevents me from expressing negative feelings toward others.
Corrected hard-target thought: I realize that sometimes it is far better for me to say what is really on my mind, even if it involves unpleasant feelings, than to stuff my feelings inside and to become depressed, anxious, or unhealthy in other ways just so I can tell myself that I am nice.
I believe the above two statements are core in a Narc's system of beliefs. Unlike ACoNs and other people who are easily manipulated, Narcs never learn how to cope with their negative self-images. Instead of discovering means to reverse any unhealthy coping mechanisms, they enter a reality so skewed, that they DO stuff the unpleasant "feelings" down far enough that they are barely existent. Narcs pride themselves on being "nice." That's all they have to show the world because their ability to express healthy "negative" emotion is long gone. In fact, the feelings themselves may be so long buried, that they themselves have disappeared entirely, and there is no longer a reserve of healthy emotion to be drawn on in times of need.
Or else, they were never capable of those emotions to begin with, and then, perhaps we are crossing over into the world of sociopaths, where empathy was never even a remote possibility.
When I first meet someone, I make it a point to look deeper than nice. If I find myself saying, "Well she was nice" then I know I haven't looked deep enough. Nice is usually just a facade, a mask, a show. I strive to look past that, into the depth of that person's character. Nice is just too fake for me. People aren't really "nice" - they are caring, generous, empathetic, kind, thoughtful, intelligent, charismatic, passionate, engaging, considerate! And on the flip side, they can be dark, dishonest, cruel, unenlightened, juvenile, petty, controlling, viscous. People are nitty-gritty. They are detailed. Everyone has a story. And nice just doesn't cut it.
I found a rather interesting note about "nice" at Dictionary.com that I think illustrates my point well. Bolding for emphasis, mine: Usage note - The semantic history of nice is quite varied, as the etymology and the obsolete senses attest, and any attempt to insist on only one of its present senses as correct will not be in keeping with the facts of actual usage. If any criticism is valid, it might be that the word is used too often and has become a cliché lacking the qualities of precision and intensity that are embodied in many of its synonyms.
I could see people describing NMIL with that word, in particular if they were to "defend" her against "my attacks" on her character. "But Jonsi," they would say reproachfully. "NMIL is just so nice! How could you be so cruel to her? She's trying. You're just too harsh!"
But there it is. By "harsh" they must mean "real."
Nice. Real. The juxtaposition, for me, is between those two words. If you're being nice than you aren't being real. And, by definition, if you're being real, you can't be nice. What is real is NOT superficial. Ergo, people don't describe me, ever, with the word "nice." Superficial people choose, instead, to see my honesty as lack of warmth. I have been described as cold, harsh, and difficult, usually by those who value the idea of "nice."
Nice, Dear Reader, is actually quite ugly in my book.